He wears a hat, carries a stick and is based on a country music star, but don't let that fool you. Luke McBain is one tough guy, as writer David Tischman explains. U.S President Theodore Rossevelt once remarked in a speech that to use peace, but to be backed up when necessary by military might was to, "Speak softly and carry a big stick." That may also apply to the adventures of a new series from 12 Gauge Comics (The Ride, Body Bags) simply named after its manly main character Luke McBain.
McBain is based on well-known country music sensation Trace Adkins, who was also the runner-up in last year's Celebrity Apprentice with Donald Trump. The 4-issue series based on the singer's likeness focuses on the titular character who has recently been released after a 14-year false imprisonment and returns to his hometown. Soon after, righteous anger at what's become of his town is followed by a desire to set things right and make some noise. Writer David Tischman (Bite Club, Red Herring) is joined by interior artist Kody Chamberlain and cover artist Brian Stelfreeze on the unique Southern set series. Adkins is apparently very impressed at what he's seen and plans to sell the comics at his upcoming concerts.
The man behind the man with the hat, scribe David Tischman sits down with BF to tell us more about this unique collaboration.
BROKEN FRONTIER: Besides what I assume is a unique audience for comics, what else does Trace Adkins bring to the project?
DAVID TISCHMAN: The country audience is far more mainstream than people in comics think. There's a ton of country fans out there. Maybe not as much in L.A. and New York, but the genre has huge popularity in the rest of the country. And we -- Keven Gardner, the publisher of 12 Gauge Comics -- and I think the Country audience is a greatly undervalued market. Hard-edged crime set against the modern South is what 12 Gauge does, and that's how the conversation about Luke McBain started.
Trace Adkins is a talented performer with a huge fan base -- and he's just such an incredible personality. Keven and I knew we had a good idea for the country market. Bringing Trace in, getting his input, adding his persona to the character -- it took the project to a completely different level.
BF: How did you come on board and what was your first response when you heard a country music star was involved?
DT: Keven and I wanted to do a modern action thriller set in a small town. A 21st century version of Walking Tall and Billy Jack. Those movies are about men of integrity and the American spirit. We were ahead of the curve, because we started Luke McBain just as Taken and Gran Torino took off at the box office.
BF: I can’t help but think of a certain character from The Simpsons when I hear the name McBain. Will there be any humor amidst the fist fights?
DT: I'm more of a South Park guy than a Simpsons guy, so I promise the name came up separately. But there are a few good moments of humor. Usually at very dramatic moments. That's when you can point out the little crazy things in life and enjoy them with a smile -- without making fun of people.
BF: With Kody Chamberlain on interiors and Brian Stelfreeze on covers, am I safe in assuming the series will be pretty action packed and dynamic?
DT: These guys -- both Kody and Brian -- what a pleasure it's been to write for these guys! There's a ton of action in each issue -- and all different kinds of action -- from car chases and bar fights, to busted-up robberies and shoot-outs. What's been great is the way we've been able to throw concepts around. Sometimes I go into long, detailed descriptions of stuff. It's what I need to see the story in my head. Because I'm not an artist. But these guys -- Kody on the interiors and Brian on covers -- they see what I'm trying to do and they make it BETTER on the page. They make me look good. You gotta love that.
BF: Did you wear a cowboy hat and carry a big stick to prepare for this series?
DT: (laughs) Sweats and a full coffee mug is pretty much what I need. I'll leave the cowboy hats to Trace Adkins. But I did listen to a lot of Country while I was writing. I've got all of Trace's stuff -- he's got such a great tone to his voice -- and he speaks, and you know exactly who he is. But I also listened to Hank Williams, Jr. and Waylon Jennings and Johnny Cash and guys like that.
BF: Luke McBain seems like a simple premise, but what can readers expect?
DT: If you keep the story simple, the characters and the relationships get more complex. Luke McBain's about America. About what people want this country to stand for. And how easy it is for a few people with money and power to subvert that. And the one man who's got the balls to take a stand against that bad guy to fight for what's right. It's also got some cool action and some sexy girls, but I don't think you'll mind that.
BF: Have you been happy with the response to Red Herring?
DT: I am so happy with Red Herring. Issue #4 is out this week, and the reviews have been great. It's not a superhero book, and it's a crazy mix of conspiracy thriller and comedy, but people are having fun and enjoying the ride. Look, I'm a writer. I sit in a room all day, alone, and make stuff up. I did it on Red Herring and I did it on Luke McBain. Two very different books, but each one is smart and fun and hits its mark. Luke McBain may be based on a country superstar, but it's a comic book, through and through.